April 30, 2003



Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.8 (April 2003)
"Initiatives and Achievements of Local Governments in Japan" Article Series No.3

Hino City, located 40 minutes by train west from central Tokyo, is a small city stretching 6 kilometers north-to-south and 7.6 kilometers east-to-west, and has a population of approximately 170,000. As an agricultural area, the city has served as the "breadbasket of Tokyo," and it is also the home of industry, including vehicle manufacturer Hino Motors Limited. Hino City is also a bedroom community for the Tokyo metropolis.

The city's Basic Ordinance on the Environment, drafted in 1994 and approved in 1995 after direct petition from local residents, was "an ordinance by the citizens, for the citizens". Based on the ordinance, 109 citizens responded to a public invitation and spent 10 months to draft "a basic environmental plan" through discussions in five working groups that they organized. For Hino City, this was the first attempt to involve citizens in the drafting of such plans.

One driver of this active public participation was the decreasing amount of greenery in the city. Due to the worsening economy, developers were trying hard to sell land holdings to raise cash, and even sloped areas were cleared for housing construction. The loss of green space ignited a sense of crisis and pushed citizens to participate in the city government's planning process.

But if you make a plan, you then have responsibility and accountability. So even eight years after drafting, many citizens continue to monitor the implementation of the plan and take action to fulfill the citizens' role.

One example is the Hodokubo River, running through Hino City, which has had its banks reinforced with concrete to prevent erosion because the river's gradient is very steep. The citizens demanded the creation of openings in the bank to allow water to form pools. These spaces triggered a citizen interest in caring for fish, insects and small animals there, and are now wonderful play areas for kids to interact with nature.

Hino City started to work on a "garbage revolution" in October 2000, resulting in a reduction in waste collection of approximately 48 percent, and a tripling of resource-recovery. Because they reduced the waste volume sent to landfill, they have reduced the landfill usage fees and remaining capacity of the landfill has been extended.

Three years ago, however, the situation was different. Hino City was the worst among the neighboring 26 cities in terms of its recycling ratio and the amount of incombustible waste sent to landfills.

Hino City made its citizens aware of this negative status and proposed solutions. The city identified its trash bin collection method as the cause of the problem and decided to change its approach to waste collection.

The trash bin collection method used huge metal garbage bins, an approach that seemed efficient, because the contents of bins were loaded onto collection trucks by cranes. And it was convenient for citizens because they could throw their garbage into any bin at any time. The "garbage revolution" pushed people from this convenient trash bin collection method to a door-to-door collection method where citizens had to buy and use designated collection bags, making people more accountable for their own garbage.

The designated collection bags are the way to force people to pay for their waste. Hino City has raised 300 million yen from the sales of designated collection bags, but this profit has been offset by increased collection costs. The reduction of waste volume, however, has made the "garbage revolution" possible at a much lower cost than originally expected.

The total volume of waste has been cut by half. At present, kitchen waste accounts for 50 percent of waste to be incinerated, because this category of garbage has been reduced only slightly. The Basic Plan for the Environment proposed that waste sent to the incinerator could be reduced by 90 percent only if effective ways were devised to use organic waste. Today, the city is studying various ways to utilize organic waste, including composting and biogas generation.

The city publicly reported progress in waste reduction every month for six months after starting the new program, and since then once a year. The reports also discuss the remaining challenges and specific activities required to address them. They also provide information about the waste volume generated at the mayor's residence, in the belief that it is important to show leadership at the top and achievements made.

Before the reforms, as much as 80 percent of citizens were against removal of trash bins. After the reforms, however, 56 percent say the reforms were good and nearly 80 percent are supportive. Also, 56 percent of citizens say that the reforms triggered an interest in waste and other environmental problems. At present, 90 percent of the citizens say they are concerned about waste and other environmental issues. These results demonstrate that participation in garbage separation and waste reduction generate public concern and interest for the problem, and this concern, leads to action.